A consideration of the 14th chapter of Ezekiel
The case has been made that Jehovah’s Witnesses are practicing a form of idolatry —the ubiquitous Organization being the idol. By the Watchtower’s own definition idolatry may involve giving undue praise or adoration to an organization. Here is what is stated in the very first paragraph of the Insight book on the topic of Idolatry:
An idol is an image, a representation of anything, or a symbol that is an object of passionate devotion, whether material or imagined. Generally speaking, idolatry is the veneration, love, worship, or adoration of an idol. It is usually practiced toward a real or supposed higher power, whether such power is believed to have animate existence (as a human, an animal, or an organization) or is inanimate (as a force or lifeless object of nature). Idolatry generally involves some form, ceremony, or ritual.
No doubt the writers of the research material had in mind an organization like the United Nations. The Watchtower maintains that because the UN has such lofty goals as to bring peace and security to this world it is a phony substitute for God’s Kingdom, because only God’s Kingdom has the power to put an end to Satan and his beastly system.
That being true, what is the difference between the United Nations and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society? Is the Watchtower more authentic because it uses the Scriptures to enshrine itself as the visible representation of Jehovah’s presence? On the contrary, that makes the earthly organization more reprehensible, does it not? Has not the Governing Body attributed the fulfillment of virtually all prophecy to the visible organization? That is on full display in the Pure Worship publication.
By their fabricating an invisible parousia of Christ, essentially they are implying that Christ dwells among the prophets and priests of Bethel. Their words are his words —transmitted through them. Bethel has even suggested that because the first resurrection has supposedly already begun the new light they receive is channeled to them through the glorified apostles of old and others of the 144,000. Indeed, how frequently Jehovah’s Witnesses hear the expression “Jehovah’s channel.”
As every one of Jehovah’s Witnesses knows, there are severe consequences for questioning the exalted Governing Body. To do so is to question God himself. Actually, it is worse than blaspheming God. One of Jehovah’s Witnesses may express doubts about God’s existence and they will likely be treated kindly and helped to strengthen their faith. But let them express the slightest reservation about the truthfulness of the Governing Body and they are dealt with as apostate enemies of the truth. That is the telltale sign of idolatry —lavishing devotion upon a visible representation and attributing divine qualities to it that it does not possess. From Jehovah’s standpoint, the Organization is a disgusting thing –an idol that diverts his praise to itself.
In the days of Ezekiel Jehovah was determined to stamp out idolatry and restore his people to pure worship. We may expect no less of God in our time. After all, Jehovah does not change. The method God used back then was terror. The same technique will bring about the desired result in the near future. Jehovah speaks: “Then the word of Jehovah came to me, saying: ‘Son of man, these men are determined to follow their disgusting idols, and they have set up a stumbling block that causes people to sin. Should I let them inquire of me? Now speak with them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says: “If an Israelite is determined to follow his disgusting idols and sets up a stumbling block causing people to sin and he then comes to inquire of a prophet, I, Jehovah, will answer him appropriately according to his many disgusting idols. For I will cause terror in the hearts of the house of Israel because they have all withdrawn from me and have gone after their disgusting idols.”’
As already established, an organization may become an idol. That being true, how much more so an organization that claims to be the earthly mouthpiece of Almighty God? Presently, though, only a relative few have been stumbled. But what happens when the sign of the conclusion and the coming of Christ begin to come into evidence? Many will be stumbled, at least according to Jesus. The revered Organization will become the stumbling block.
What will the idol’s prophets have to say then? Will they repent and disavow their status as the spokesmen of Jehovah? Apparently, some will not. That is why those who persist in inquiring of the prophet during that time will be convicted as guilty of the sin of idolatry. That is why Jehovah goes on to say: “But if the prophet is fooled and gives a response, it is I, Jehovah, who have fooled that prophet. I will then stretch out my hand against him and annihilate him from my people Israel. They will have to bear their guilt; the guilt of the inquirer will be the same as the guilt of the prophet, so that the house of Israel may stop wandering away from me and stop defiling themselves by all their transgressions. And they will be my people, and I will be their God,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.”
Why ought Jehovah allow himself to be made to answer to people who have their own speaking idol? This is how the Watchtower will become a snare and a stumbling block. It is looked to as God’s spokesman, well then what shall it say when the judgment comes against it? Who would even give it credence then? Those who do will be guilty.
Here we have a clear connection with the man of lawlessness, who according to Paul sets himself up as a god within God’s spiritual temple. Or, we might say within God’s visible organization. True, his presence is an operation of Satan, but nothing happens without God’s permission. Why does God allow Satan to deceive his own people? Because they love it. God allows them to be deceived by their prophet as punishment, “as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth in order that they might be saved. That is why God lets a deluding influence mislead them so that they may come to believe the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.”
So, God’s allowance for the deluding influence will culminate when the presence actually begins. Then it will be as though God has fooled the prophets. They will not speak for him at all. They will mislead the idolators to their final end.
Next Jehovah brings up the sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts of the earth as the means for administering terror. One would think that the prophets of Bethel would discern this as the very same judgments unveiled with the opening of the seals of the Apocalypse. Evidently not. But God goes on to make the point: “Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, (Jerusalem) as surely as I am alive,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘they would save neither their sons nor their daughters; they would save only themselves because of their righteousness.’”
What is the takeaway as regards the antitypical Jerusalem? Even if there is one who is faithful and discreet, even if there are among them the chosen ones, they will not be able to save the visible organization from God’s wrath. They will only save themselves. Appropriately, the 14th chapter concludes when Jehovah explained why he destroyed Jerusalem, saying: “And you will know that it was not without cause that I did what I had to do to it,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.”